University of Arizona College of Nursing Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student Calvina Nez chose a career in nursing for the best possible reason: to help people and make a positive difference in their health. Nez is part of the College’s DNP-FNP cohort, with an expected to graduation date in December, 2021. For the last several weeks, she has been providing frontline support to her community of Kayenta, Ariz., located in the Navajo Nation, which has been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 crisis. We caught up with her recently to learn more about her challenges on the frontline of the battle against the deadly virus.
What is it like to be on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic?
To be on the frontline is an honor. Not very many people can be, yet we nurses have the skill set to save lives. It is humbling to know very sick people come to you for help and trust you with their lives to get them better.
"Working 12 days straight while in school full time is already hard. Throw in a COVID-19 pandemic, respiratory distress, death and feeling tired and overwhelmed in the mix, it really becomes just a blur. Nonetheless, my determination, my own relentlessness, and my dream of becoming a Navajo provider to help my people has remained untouched," ~ Calvina Nez, UArizona Nursing DNP Student
Can you share your perspective of the challenges nurses face during this crisis in the Navajo Nation?
Nursing on the Navajo Nation has always been hard because there were always limited resources long before COVID-19. After a while, adapting and overcoming becomes second nature. The mentality will always be ‘Get the job done.’ Taking care of the people is most important of all.
How are nurses in your community fighting this epidemic?
Because there is limited help, we nurses are fighting this epidemic with not only a long-standing Navajo cultural stoicism but with relentlessness, because those qualities are just us.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
Like the rest of America, our biggest challenge is limited Personal Protective Equipment, but we also face limited healthcare providers, limited hospital beds, and limited ventilators. We also have to find water and food for our patients, many of whom are in isolation living 45 minutes to an hour away from the nearest grocery store. Reservation living is tough but the Díneh people are stronger.
How have you managed balancing your school work and your clinical work?
Working 12 days straight while in school full time is already hard. Throw in a COVID-19 pandemic, respiratory distress, death and feeling tired and overwhelmed in the mix, it really becomes just a blur. Nonetheless, my determination, my own relentlessness, and my dream of becoming a Navajo provider to help my people has remained untouched. In the end, being a single mother, working full time and going to school full time lie within self-discipline, will power, strong mindedness, tenacity and plain old grit.
Is there something you can share that gives you hope and helps you stay positive?
The thank you’s and hugs from patients and their families, and the gracious outpouring of support for the Navajo Nation gives me hope and helps me stay positive.
What does it mean to you to be a Wildcat Nurse?
Being a Wildcat Nurse means I belong to a long standing group of prestigious, successful nurses who innovate within the nursing profession and transform healthcare through excellence.
What does the Year of the Nurse mean to you?
The Year of the Nurse means we are going to once again hold the spotlight on a profession that has the upmost commitment to those they care for. A bit ironic that COVID-19 has shown the world who nurses are.